If ‘one man’s trash’ is really ‘another man’s treasure’ my recent ‘Tour, Tee & Toast’ experience at Christopher Raeburn’s REMADE studio in Hackney, demonstrated a level of creativity and wealth I’d never previously considered.
We live in a world of immense consumerism and casual human disregard for the environmental implications of waste; the fashion industry a key player in our increasingly, throw-away economy. Its huge environmental impact coupled with the ever-growing demand for material resource equates to an industry desperately in need of radical change.
A 2017 report revealed that in 2015 alone, the fashion industry consumed 79 billion cubic metres of water – that figure expected to increase 50% by 2030. Difficult to comprehend? Maybe consider your favourite pair of jeans, you might be surprised to know that almost 10,000 litres of water went into creating them (about as much as you’d drink over a seven-year period).
Time for a much-needed wakeup call?
Last year the Global Fashion Agenda issued a call to action for a circular fashion system to finally end their ‘take, make, dispose’ industry. Along with other equally important global challenges facing humanity, it would seem awareness and proactivity to sustainable fashion is on the rise. Reassuringly, there are those that have been paving the way for quite some time.
Perhaps relevant before his time, Christopher Raeburn is a fashion designer who is very conscious of his carbon footprint. Studying at the Royal College of Art back in 2001, he quickly earned a name for himself in intelligent, sustainable fashion, whilst working with disused military garments, stemming from his fascination with their functionality.
“REMADE, REDUCED, RECYCLED and RÆBURN” is the ethos by which his brand lives and breathes, and the 4 R’s that underpin his entire business. If he can’t fulfil at least one of the first 3 R’s, he simply doesn’t create it!
REMADE studio – the original Burberry textile factory – has been reimagined. Unlike many other fashion designers, or design houses, Christopher’s aim for the studio is to become a hub of the community; his doors are wide open for anyone wanting to experience his unique craft.
Starting with a tour of his inspirational archive, a treasure-trove of historical gems; biscuit ration-boxes recovered from military uniforms, old Queen’s guard’s jackets and even a Japanese hand grenade (defunct, I was happily reassured), he shared memories of his first £30 parachute purchase from eBay.
Since those days his collections have been crafted from a myriad of other ingeniously recovered artefacts, from old military sleeping bags, decommissioned parachutes, to 1950’s silk navy warship maps, snow camouflage netting, bomb disposal jackets and life rafts.
Part designer, part archaeologist, Christopher has an obvious love of collecting pieces rich in historical nostalgia. “You shouldn’t replicate history, it’s all about making something new and contemporary from something old that has a story to tell.” he told us. Every new project is a blank canvas of potential for Raeburn to transform into something considered, worthwhile and functional.
Albeit the obvious question on everyone’s lips, I had to ask where he takes his inspiration from, and his answer was simple; “everywhere and anywhere”. Further referencing Paul Smith, he concluded “if you can’t find inspiration, look again.”
Ending the tour with the ‘tee & toast’ element, (much like a pick and mix) Avery Dennison woven patches, made from recycled yarns, were laid out for all to select from, each patch representing an animal or symbol from Raeburn’s past collections. These were then used to create your own ‘one-off’ Raeburn t-shirt.
The afternoon was spent truly inspired, the experience not only offered high tactility and immersive moments, it also educated; drawing on elements of rich and historical storytelling to warn of the potential environmental implications of fashion’s wasteful ways.
We ‘toasted’ our creativity and learnings with a beer brewed from surplus bread, aptly named – you’ve guessed it – Toast. Well, you wouldn’t expect anything less would you?